This is a tricky one, and we’ll look at all these saintly Martins to give you an understanding of the differences between Saint Martin vs. Sint Maarten. Then, I’ll throw in a few others to really give you the full view (using confusion as a learning tool). 🙂
Saint Martin – The Caribbean Island
If you’re speaking generally, and perhaps from anywhere other than France or the Netherlands, when you refer to Saint Martin (or St. Martin), you are probably speaking of the Caribbean Island.
The island of Saint Martin is about 87 km² (34 mi²), 300 km (190 mi) east of Puerto Rico and just several km south of Anguilla. It has a population of about 78,000 inhabitants.
Far away from the European continent, Saint Martin constitutes the only land border which France and the Netherlands share anywhere on Earth. The French side, Saint-Martin, is 50% larger than the Dutch Sint Maarten.
Sometimes, people refer to the whole island as “St-Martin / St Maarten” or “SXM,” which is the IATA airport code for the island’s main airport on the Dutch side, Princess Juliana International Airport.
Saint-Martin – The French Side of the Island
The French part, located in the north, makes up the Collectivité de Saint-Martin (Collectivity of St Martin) and is one of the overseas collectivities of France. It is renowned for its nude beaches and authentic French cuisine. We have more French facts for you, too!
Facts about Saint-Martin, the French side:
- Shorter distance between France and the UK (Anguilla) than Dover and Calais!
- ISO 3166-1 code: MF
- Less populated (about 37K out of the 78K on island) and less visited by tourists.
- The capital of Saint-Martin is Marigot, with a population of around 6,000. It is also the largest on the French side.
- The French side of St. Martin covers 53 km² (20 mi²; 60.9%).
- Pic Paradis, at 424 m (1,391 ft), is the highest point on the island.
- The French side uses the euro (EUR), though the Dutch side doesn’t.
- The demonym for the people of the French side is St. Martinois.
For more on France, visit our France destination guide »
Sint Maarten – The Dutch Side of the Island
Sint Maarten, the Dutch side in the south, is one of the four constituent countries that comprise the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In contrast with its northern French neighbor, Sint Maarten is more diverse, culturally and linguistically, and people often say that it has a truer Caribbean vibe.
Philipsburg, the capital, is the only true town with a city-like feel on the island. In addition the the airport being on the Dutch side, Sint Maarten also has the cruise port and many more buildings.
Facts about Sint Maarten, the Dutch side:
- Philipsburg is the capital of Sint Martin.
- ISO 3166-1 code: SX
- More populated (about 41K out of the 78K on island) and more visited by tourists.
- Lower Prince’s Quarter is the largest settlement on the Dutch side, with over 8,000 inhabitants.
- The Dutch side of St. Martin covers 34 km² (13 mi²; 39.1%).
- Dutch and English are official languages, and Virgin Islands Creole is also used.
- Official currency is the Netherlands Antillean Guilder (ANG), but US Dollar may be more common.
- The demonym for the people of the Dutch side is St. Maartener.
For more on the Netherlands, visit our Netherlands destination guide »
St. Martin’s Island, Bangladesh
That’s right, I’m throwing this last one in here to confuse you, but also to help you win a future pub trivia night with style. It’s one more Martin-named island.
Only 8 km², St. Martin’s Island forms the southernmost portion of the country of Bangladesh, near the border with Myanmar on the Bay of Bengal. It happens to also be the only coral island in Bangladesh.
Different from the other two (one? three?) Martins we’ve mentioned above, St. Martin’s Island in Bangladesh was named such by the British back in the early 1800’s – before that, the island was called Jazeera.
So, what did you think? This is part of our ongoing series, “Versus: ‘What’s the Difference?'” With this series, we aim to promote a better understanding and love of the differences that make us unique while at the same time casting out doubt; hopefully, this will make us better travelers, better citizens, and better people. For more, check out the Versus: “What’s the Difference?” category »